At about this time last year we visited the Festival of Chariots, there were only two of us then, and Robert was still a very much doubted suspicion. This year the three of us went, and dad was holding Robert in his carrier. My heart always burst with pride as we go for these walks, I now have my own little family; it is the most comfortable feeling in the world. From his perch in the carrier, Robert was all regal looking, watching the procession of the chariot and the devotees pulling it. A man was throwing candies from the chariot, and a number of kids were hot on the trail, collecting the falling candies and fighting over them. I still managed to pick up exactly three pieces, for the three of us. One of them actually had to land in the brim of my sun hat. I was never any good at catching, or even tossing for that matter, and Ron had to direct me to where the candies fell, pathetic performance.
A group of Cape Minstrels took advantage of the closure of Beach Road for the chariot. They preceded the chariot with their characteristic musical performance; I thought they were getting ready for the celebration of the 2nd New Year on the Second. The 2nd of January will mark the 100th celebration of this popular Cape Carnival. The music of the minstrels mixed with the chants for Rama and Krishna, and I thought it was a little disruptive to the festival, but nobody seemed to be too concerned. After all this was the rainbow nation and it should have space for all sorts of festivities.
I remembered when we went last year to watch the minstrels on the 2nd of January. The streets were crowded with people who follow this annual festivity. A coloured man spoke to me at length, about God and living in this country. He was proud of his tradition and proud to be part of the New South Africa, after living through Apartheid. I can still remember his face and his parting remark. He told me that for 2007 he was going to make a prediction that next year at this time I will not be standing alone, he pointed in the direction of my abdomen, and said: “It’s a girl”. His prophecy startled me into thinking and hoping that maybe I will become a mother after all, and perhaps I wasn’t experiencing a hormonal hiccup but a start of a new life. In the end he was only right on one count, but in retrospect I wouldn’t have it any other way. I am happy to stand here holding my little boy.
The little boy in question is becoming more of handful as the weeks go by (literally and figuratively). Ron and I haven’t used a stroller yet, but I can see us needing one very soon, once he becomes too heavy to carry in the front carrier. His muscles are strengthening and he can now sit with support for a long time. Sometimes when he refuses to feed, and arches his body backwards, it becomes a real battle to settle him into place. As his personality and stubbornness begin to emerge, his gross and small motor skills are also improving. A week ago reaching out and grabbing small objects was a feat that required huge concentration and effort, judging by the amount of grunts and frustrated outbursts. This was especially true when the skill required coordinated movement of both hands; you could almost watch how the growing brain is learning to fine-tune the choppy motion and the hit and miss process involved. Some larger muscles – unnecessary for the task- are occasionally enlisted, such as neck, stomach and legs. Now there is none of that; the movements are still a bit jerky, but definitely less robot-like and more focused. He reaches towards objects and grips them with ease, directing them immediately towards his mouth. Robert’s verbal tricks continue to expand from grunting and cooing to some lengthy babbling, and a few days ago he added some wet razzing. He continues to slobber profusely but there is no sign of teething yet.
I also show him his books regularly. The book he finds most interesting is the one with the bear puppet, but I think at this point the bear fascinates him more than the pictures in the book. He wants to engage in play with the puppet and reaches towards it to bite its arms. He shows some interest in to the book illustrating colours and textures, but his attention span there is much shorter, and he gets grumpy very quickly once he tires of fingering and touching a few texture pages.
More relevant to celebrating the closure of an eventful year, New Year’s eve was a quaint and simple affair in our household. In the afternoon we went on our most favourite outing, the V&A Waterfront. Yes, we have talked at length at expanding our range, but it remains a project for next year. This year we are stuck at a 10 kilometre radius, or better still a 15 minute drive. For a change we tramped around a different section of the mall where we haven’t been before, and bought an ice-cream cone, for a treat. But as it is always the case with parenthood, precisely at the moment when we let down our guard for a long-awaited treat, Robert made his presence known and demanded some attention. Perhaps he was unsettled by the closed mall and the crowd, and we had to rush outside, carrying him and a rapidly melting cone of chocolate and mint ice-cream. Somehow we managed to take turns with the baby and the ice-cream, but it wasn’t quite the relaxed treat we had hoped for. Later in the evening Ron prepared us a braai of steaks, which went very well with baby potatoes and a glass of chilled white wine. We nursed the wine throughout the evening, but went to bed a good two hours before the old year was over.